Food/Drink

Hot dog! Food trucks add sizzle to go-local menus

With the sunshine of spring comes a huge craving to fire up the grill and plop on the brats. Such simple, brown-and-sizzle pleasures turn extraordinary about 1,000 miles south. For breakfast: hot skewers of sausage doused with pancake/waffle batter, sprinkled with brown sugar and kissed with a syrup whose artisan flavors change with the season.(…)

Charlie’s Drive-in: It’s Elvis, tattoos, classic cars

Rachel Mann-Rosenfeldt takes a big step on the day before we meet. She adds a tattoo to her left leg – not a teensy rose or wimpy butterfly, but a sketch that covers much of her outer calf. It is not Rachel’s first tattoo, but this time the indelible ink freezes time in a most(…)

Cutting into the mustard at Middleton museum

Shortly after our host delivered a platter of shaved corned beef and rye bread, he returned with a word of advice: If you need mayo, leave now. Barry Levenson, founder of the National Mustard Museum, was smiling but not kidding. About 30 of us were at his Middleton museum on a recent Sunday afternoon, rating(…)

Rural ramble: St. Croix curds, cave, Vino in Valley

Former Gov. Anthony Earl in the 1980s dubbed Ellsworth, population 3,200, as Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin. The 102-year-old Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery produces 160 pounds of curds every day. “They’re fresh and ready at 11 a.m.,” says the creamery’s Beth Ingli, while busily distributing samples at this month’s annual Wisconsin Restaurant Association Expo in Milwaukee.(…)

New Jerry Apps book, events, trips for gardeners

One of my treats on Sundays is reading the latest blog entry by prolific Wisconsin writer Jerry Apps, whose keen observations about life always seem universal. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a farmhouse or high-rise condo. My favorite part is “The Old Timer Says,” a one-liner of homespun wisdom. Examples: “Sometimes I don’t see(…)

Chicago food: beyond dawgs, pizza, Bayless

Jazzed-up hot dogs, deep-dish pizza and any product with chef Rick Bayless’ thumbprint are among the foods that make Chicago famous. Add wiener schnitzel from the Berghoff, burgers from the Billy Goat Tavern, “da pork chop” from Ditka’s and pastas from Tony Mantuano’s Spiaggia. This is Chicago cuisine that – for the average tourist –(…)

Sacred sites produce something to savor

Most authors who choose food as a research topic head to restaurants, markets, factories or farms. Madison native Madeline Scherb opted for convents and monasteries. Her result – “A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns” (Tarcher/Penguin, $15.95) – is one part cookbook, one part spiritual pilgrimage and(…)

Horseradish: from crop to plate in Manawa

Ebelskivers. Aebleskivers. Both spellings work, and both are pronounced ABLE-sky-vers. Until I got acquainted with Judy Trull and her Lindsay House B&B in Manawa, I was unenlightened about the Danish treat that gains popularity in December. The innkeeper describes ebelskivers as a puffy pancake with a filling. To make them properly, you need – what(…)

Tavern League: inside Sessler’s, Red Room

My father, as far as I could tell, wasn’t much of a drinker – but he liked to swing into one or more toasty shoreline taverns after a day of ice fishing on Lake Winnebago. The men told their fish stories and took turns buying a round. “I’ll take a soda,” my dad would say,(…)

Food trips: cheeses to Riviera Maya breezes

Let’s build your appetite to indulge in something new. It’s not hard work. — Milwaukee-based Funjet Vacations and Taste of Home Cooking School are combining resources to offer a tropical culinary getaway to Riviera Maya, near Cancun, Mexico. The Jan. 4-8, 2012, trip costs roughly $3,050 for an all-inclusive “gourmet experience” for two people who(…)

Distillers unite, to market themselves as one

We have long been in good spirits in Wisconsin, and now a lesser-known part of our alcohol-loving heritage will make itself more visible. Producers of hard alcohol are banding together to form the Wisconsin Distillers Association. Wisconsin’s reputation for beer production is longstanding and steady. In 2010, there were 112 federal brewing permits on file,(…)

Arena, Mazo: unusual, good rural dining

Two rural and south-central Wisconsin businesses, eight miles apart, cater to customers in unconventional ways. — A mile or two west of Arena, population 685, sits the Church of the Cinnamon Roll. Friends and strangers turn up on Sunday mornings for Bob McQuade’s warm, sugary communion and reflect upon life as they know it. The(…)

Two Ryan Braun restaurants in Wisconsin

The setting: White linens. Delicate stemware. Cartoonish murals. The pizza choices: Pepperoni. Sweet potato pie. Sausage and rapini. Also on the menu: Meatballs. Watermelon-beet salad. Hot wing ravioli. Wooing customers, behind the scenes: chef Dominic Zumpano, who makes his own Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, tomato jam, breads and more. Expanding the fan base, but seldom(…)

Old World Wisconsin: How the gardens grow

May is a month of hope and faith for gardeners who begin with seeds or fragile stalks and dream of a cornucopia of color and food. A shady yard, brown thumbs and limited dedication challenge my own success, but even visions of spindly tomatoes and out-of-control perennials get me revved up during this time of(…)

Kettle of Fish: NYC bar for Packer, Badger fans

Six subway stops south of Times Square, in Manhattan’s West Village, and I’m almost home. The exit says New York University, but that’s not the draw. Neither is Stonewall Inn, where the nation’s gay rights movement began in 1969, but now we’re getting warmer. Less than 50 feet from the Stonewall, a sidewalk chalkboard congratulates(…)

al corso: fine dining in rural Wisconsin

I am chasing the sun as it turns the sky a moody rose-gray near twilight, zipping past farmland and swampland that are steeping in the waters of melted snow. Dam construction on Mud Creek during the 1960s ensures marshy terrain year-round. Sandhill cranes, herons, pheasants, bobolinks, osprey and many other birds like it this way.(…)

Pasties, Stormy Kromers, Kimball Inn fare

Note: A proposal to resume iron ore mining in Wisconsin, after a lag of four decades, means we’re likely to hear more than usual about Iron and Ashland counties during the next few years. Gogebic Taconite wants to spend $1 billion on open-pit mining on 22,000 acres of the Penokee Range, between Upson and Mellon.(…)

Hurley’s Silver Street: No beer shortage here

Note: A proposal to resume iron ore mining in Wisconsin, after a lag of four decades, means we’re likely to hear more than usual about Iron and Ashland counties during the next few years. Gogebic Taconite wants to spend $1 billion on open-pit mining on 22,000 acres of the Penokee Range, between Upson and Mellon.(…)

Port Washington Inn tops state B&B contest

Atop Sweet Cake Hill, four blocks from Lake Michigan, sits a bed and breakfast with five guest rooms near downtown Port Washington, an unassuming community of 11,000 that does little to brag up its attractive lakeshore. Book the Port Washington Inn’s third-floor Top of the World Suite, and accommodations include a sitting area with a(…)

Distil, Merchant mixing craft, classic cocktails

While you’re nursing that Bloody Mary, mimosa or screwdriver during Sunday brunch, I’m discovering Milk Punch, the Ramos Gin Fizz and Corpse Reviver No. 2. The three cocktails are a study in history, and you’ll find them on the brunch menu at Merchant, a new place to dine and imbibe in downtown Madison. At the(…)

Midwest to Middle East: best meals of 2010

An unusual setting helps deepen the dining experience. These six memorable meals are from my travels during 2010. — Traders Point Creamery – Evidence of rural life appears abruptly, just northwest of Indianapolis. It’s a quick switch from suburbia and interstates to cornfields and a one-lane bridge. This is where children, and others, learn that(…)

Inside Madison’s Underground Kitchen

When I met Jonny and Ben Hunter three years ago, they were rebel caterers keen on cooking adventurously with locally grown food, but without the trappings of tradition. Their work was fine art, but customers wouldn’t know the exact menu until the day of delivery. That’s how serious the brothers were about using in-season ingredients.(…)

Georgio’s: Perfecting the recipe for pizza

USA Today readers know by now that Georgio’s in Milton, a Rock County community of 5,100, is my Wisconsin recommendation in a nationwide roundup of great pizza places. The owners of this cozy, little Italian restaurant – George Rakidzich and Cheryl Ryan – have Serbian and Irish roots. They discarded corporate careers 13 years ago(…)

Reedsburg thinks food, Fermentation Fest

Everybody has a story, including the guy who shows up at Donna Neuwirth’s place with an odd contraption just before closing time. The device looks like a thick and makeshift set of wooden tongs that sits atop sturdy arcs of attached metal. “Bet you don’t know what this is,” the unannounced visitor teases. The antique(…)